You’ve already spent your first day getting to know central Belfast, so it’s time to go a little further on day two. The most characterful experiences this city has in store are to be found in some of the outlying neighborhoods, so be prepared to get those legs moving. It might even be wise to get a daily pass for the Belfast Bikes. That way, you can really cram in as much of the city as possible.
Make the short trip south of the city center to the Queen’s Quarter. There’s a direct route, but for something a little more scenic, head up the river along the Lagan towpath before cutting through the Botanic Gardens. Just by the gates of the gardens you’ll find Conor, a former artist’s studio turned brunch spot. For something particularly decadent, check out its Irish coffee.
Fully fed and caffeinated, head to the Ulster Museum. There’s nowhere better to brush up on your history, especially Irish history, and admission is free. You’ll also find a highly poignant and informative permanent exhibition on the years of conflict in Northern Ireland. The exhibition seeks to provide context for the years of violence, but it also emphasizes personal stories and the day-to-day lives of ordinary people living in Belfast during that period.
After a busy morning of learning, take the opportunity to chill out and reflect in the quad of Queen’s University’s Lanyon Building. This is also an excellent chance to catch up on your people watching.
You have enough time to squeeze in a glimpse of Belfast’s famous murals before the sun goes down. From Queen’s University, go back into the city center where a number of independent providers offer guided tours in black cabs — try Taxi Trax. These tours leave from near the city center, and you can book in advance. The most famous stretch of murals is along Falls Road and Shankill Road, and a good tour guide should provide needed context for the politically charged art pieces.
After a long day of learning and historical sightseeing, head to Morning Star for gastro-pub classics in a comfortable and relaxing setting to mull over everything you’ve taken in. This is a perfectly unpretentious (or gimmick-less) place to taste Irish classics like Cock n Bull and Irish stew, and the rich fare goes down best with a traditional pint of Guinness.
If you overdid it on the beer last night, maybe opt for something a little bit more sophisticated. Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has plenty of options for cocktails. Check out Berts for a menu of classics in an Art Deco interior. For a slightly more modern and off-the-wall choice, hit Babel on the rooftop of the Bullitt hotel, which offers a range of innovative original cocktails made with ingredients grown in-house on its living walls.
If you have time for one more day in Belfast, check out our itinerary for day three — we promise the Giant’s Causeway alone is well worth the extra day.